by Stanley Lieber

Knowing himself, SL wandered the countryside. He’d leave the hotel before dawn, while the coaches were still asleep, and break for the woods. In these parts there were no isolated stands of trees. Every branch of the forest connected somehow back to its trunk. You followed the seams.

Within the forest one typically found more trash than on the street. An auction catalog of discarded items, some of them immediately saleable, some useful personally. Today SL encountered both varieties of green trash, and immediately he made plans for its dispersal.

The creeks were also full of litter. Sometimes SL would find piles of unopened MREs. He knew which shops back in town would be interested. Caches of crap turned back into cash.

SL would sit on an outcropping alongside the creek and feel the cool water soaking into his shoes. Mosquitoes skipped across the reflecting surface, not even trying to avoid him when he swatted them away. Moss, everywhere.

He had no memory of why he’d come here.

Twenty minutes deeper into the woods (though somehow still within earshot of rush hour traffic), the trail opened onto the abandoned ruins of what had once been a house.

On days when it rained the whole town stank of cat piss. In reality it would have to have been something else because SL had never even seen a cat here. Or maybe it was just that they had all been hiding from him. Whatever the cause, the air, and everything else, was stifling.

SL steered himself into the shower.

Breakfast was a cul-de-sac. He steered in, turned around, and steered right back out. Another routine successfully subsumed into the blank, gray background of his user icon. This, too, flew in the face of recovery theory. The automatic mechanisms he had hoped to escape were replaced with labor intensive equivalents—though these, as well, were beyond his willingness to contemplate consciously. Life imitating farce.

It had all gone quiet enough that he was once again prepared to contemplate the fate of his friend, who heretofore had served chiefly as an anchor to his rapidly fading memory of life before the hotel.

He found that he could no longer remember his friend’s name.

That would complicate a search.